Creating Something Out of Nothing

Yesterday, we visited Coloft, a co-working space in Santa Monica. We met with one of the cofounders of Coloft, Avesta Rasouli. Avesta is a serial entrepreneur who had some really interesting thoughts and advice on startups, especially in Silicon Valley. I’m just going to talk about of few of the points he made that stood out at me, in no particular order.

Picking a partner

Avesta really stressed the importance of picking (a) partner(s) who have/has complementary skill sets. If you’re really good at coding, it’s pretty important to have someone who can manage a business and make sales (this really echoes the concept of the “4 hats of entrepreneurship” that we heard from the guys at PerCognate).

According to Avestar, once you have people with complementary skill sets to start a venture with, you have to be willing to stay out of each other’s business. You’ve got to be willing to trust that the other person (who has skills you don’t) knows what their doing. If you try to micromanage everything, the venture is probably going to fail.

Solve other people’s problems, not yours

This one was interesting for me: Avestar said that it’s often important to resist the urge to start something that solves your problems. You need to make sure their’s a market for what you’re doing (which involves, obviously, talking to people). If you talk to four people, and three of them have the same problem, that might be a good market to go after. If you have a problem you can solve with a product, don’t spend a ton of time assuming that other’s have that problem: you have to make sure you aren’t wasting your time.

I think this is one that I could struggle with. I’m obviously not going out and starting a business right now, but when I start projects, they’re generally aimed to solve a need I have – most of what I do wouldn’t be very useful to other people.

Ideas don’t mean shit

We’ve heard this one a number of times: ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone has good ideas. It’s the execution that takes skill and effort. On a related note, Avestar was pretty dismissive of non-disclosure agreements. He won’t sign them in exchange for listening to an idea, and he said that most people in Silicon Valley won’t either. This connects to the fact that ideas are cheap: if you have a good idea, telling everyone probably won’t make a difference. In fact, someone has already probably had your idea, but wouldn’t or couldn’t execute it. That’s what distinguishes an entrepreneur.

The loudest people are often not the smartest

This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s easy to get caught up in how many people follow you on Twitter, or to talk up your ideas and convince people. But the smartest people are the ones who don’t waste time with stuff like that: they’re actually out building stuff.